Big Ride: Afan Forest Park - Bike Magic

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Big Ride: Afan Forest Park

Big Ride is one of those fairly rare beasts, an instructional mountain bike video. There’ve been others over the years, of course (Dirt Magazine’s Fundamentals being a particularly fine recent example), but historically the “functional” bike film has taken a back seat to the more gung-ho freeride flick.

This is something of a shame, for the format lends itself rather well to teaching riding technique. Being able to watch the movements at various speeds and repeatedly certainly helps to get the point across.

Big Ride: Afan Forest Park is the first in a planned six-film series at different locations across the UK. The format is simple – presenter and tutor Justin Loretz (of Mountain Biking UK and, occasionally, Blue Peter fame) takes a group of variously-skilled riders out on the trails and helps them out with tricky bits that they come across.

We’ll admit to a bit of cringing during the introductory scene, which comes complete with a strong scent of cheese. But thankfully the style settles down a bit once Loretz stops working from a script – once out on the trails with the riders, it’s all fairly natural, spontaneous and really quite watchable.

Rather than break the whole “riding bikes” thing down into distinct sections, Big Ride gets straight in with a turn around the Afan Forest Park trails and simply deals with technique issues as they arise. In this way it successfully manages to convey something of the appeal of mountain biking in a small, friendly group (especially as the action takes place over a weekend, so the riders discuss their first day’s riding over tea in a log cabin much as any group would).

This approach does inevitably mean that not everything gets covered, but a healthy dollop of general technique is thrown at the riders and they’re all convincingly better by the end than at the beginning. Plus there’s a lot of pretty decent footage of the trails, certainly enough to build a fair degree of enthusiasm for paying Afan a visit.

The DVD also includes handy extras such as maintenance tips and photo galleries. It’s all well put together, imaginatively shot and tidily edited.

Accessible, new twist on the instructional film, well put together

Some slightly cheesy sections, perhaps not as complete a technique guide as some would like


It’s both Big Ride’s weakness and strength that it feels more like part of a series than a self-contained film. The fact that you could easily imagine it being the first episode in a series on TV is testament to the production quality, but you do get the slight impression that stuff is being held back to fill the next few shows. But there’s still plenty to like here, and if you’re a beginning-to-intermediate rider, you’ll almost certainly pick up a load of valuable tips. If you feel that you need to improve your riding, this is likely to be a better use of fifteen quid than a new tyre…


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